By now, everyone has heard about the Brandeis/Hirsi Ali debacle and the subsequent fallout. Sam Stone has given his take on it in a previous post. As he said, it is really ironic that this has struck a chord with both the secular left and the neocons on the right. But that’s not what has really resonated with me.
Nothing in this world happens in a vacuum, and this incident is no exception. Hirsi Ali has been a lightning rod for Muslim hatred for ten years, ever since her collaboration with filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (she wrote the screenplay) on the movie Submission, for which they received death threats and for which Van Gogh was subsequently murdered – having his throat slashed on a public thoroughfare in Amsterdam by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim. The film, along with Hirsi Ali’s autobiography entitled Infidel, was highly critical of Islam and the rampant misogyny in Muslim communities worldwide.
Now I will admit that some of her statements tend to be a little over the top, and some of her rhetoric can be a bit fiery. And she has worked with the conservative American Enterprise Institute advocating for very aggressive policies toward the worldwide Muslim community. But there are fewer women who have as much right to such an attitude, given her life history. (BTW, when she spoke at the University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown in April 2007, extra special security was required because of Muslim protests, let by Imam Fouad El Bayly who said that she deserved the death sentence.)
Fast forward to 20014. Brandeis University announced plans to give Hirsi Ali an honorary degree in recognition of her work for women’s rights around the world. Almost immediately, the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) mounted a campaign to harass and attempt to intimidate Brandeis University into changing their mind. In the first place, Brandeis is a Jewish university, which complicates relations with the Muslim community to begin with. But secondly, and I think more importantly, there is always the underlying threat of Muslim violence, a sort of unspoken extortion. (Can you say Van Gogh? Can you say Danish cartoons?)
Guess what. Brandeis University caved and rescinded their offer of an honorary degree. Parroting the CAIR position, they tried to give themselves cover by claiming that she is an “Islamophobe” and intolerant, yadda, yadda, yadda. The irony is that the statements that they are quoting from her have been public record for five years and more. These aren’t new, nor is her aggressive anti-Muslim stance. Hasn’t anybody at Brandeis ever heard of Google? Not only that, but her criticisms of Islam and its treatment of women are valid. Having lived it, she knows first hand the extreme misogyny of Islam and the Koran.
But……… that’s not the end of the whole story. Emboldened by their extortion of Brandeis, CAIR also threatened two other universities, forcing them to shut down screenings of a film making similar (valid) complaints about Islam. The film is called Honor Diaries and features nine courageous women who have seen first hand the horrors inflicted on women in the Muslim world and are working for change. Neither Hirsi Ali nor the women in Honor Diaries are making this stuff up – they have lived it and/or have seen it on a daily basis. So it’s obvious what the Islamist thugs at CAIR are trying to do – stifle any and every criticism of Islam by extorting anyone who would like to provide a forum for those speaking out, no matter how valid that criticism is. And since all of those doing the criticizing are women, it’s just one more bit of Islamist thuggery against women.
CAIR tries to portray itself as the moderate, mainstream voice of Muslims in the US. That may indeed be accurate, I don’t really know. But if it is true, then that means that the moderate mainstream Muslim community is not really interested in dialogue or in addressing the issues of human rights abuses within the worldwide Muslim community. That is indeed a shame, because it makes them no better than Al Qaeda or the Taliban or any other Islamist thugs. Maybe Hirsi Ali is correct in her assertion that we need to defeat Islam itself.